Sunday, May 12, 2013

Roundup: Private prisons, primary contests, tech law and privacy

Here are a few odds and ends that haven't made it into full Grits posts but deserve readers' attention:

Court of Criminal Appeals races in play in 2014 GOP primary
There has been much speculation in political and legal circles this spring that all three Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges up for reelection in 2014 may retire, which would mean Texas would have open-seat races for every slot and likely a broad field of candidates to choose from in each one. W.C. "Bud" Kirkendall, who was District Attorney for the 25th Judicial District for 20 years before being elected judge out of Seguin, has announced his candidacy for the CCA and in the coming months likely many will join him. I thought it notable that Kirkendall included an homage to online privacy in his announcement statement: "the court plays a critical role in important constitutional issues such as the right to bear arms under the Second Amendment and Texas law, search and seizure matters, surveillance limitations and questions of online privacy," he declared. "I will apply my conservative judicial philosophy, experience and maturity to each ruling, adhering to the constitutions of the United States and Texas" The Republican primary is where all the action will be in these races. Whoever the GOP nominates will win the statewide races on the party's substantial coattails, so primary voters are the only ones who matter. Grits expects quite a few candidates and competitive (if likely underfunded) races.

Dallas DA primary promises hot contest
Troubled Dallas county commissioner John Wiley Price said Judge John Creuzot should run against District Attorney Craig Watkins in the 2014 primary. Grits agrees, but one imagines Creuzot would rather the South Dallas political kingpin keep his endorsement to himself, at least until the question in the headline of this Dallas Observer blog post can be answered. If JWP falls under federal indictment, a possibility that has loomed over the county for months, that won't look so great on his endorsement sheet. Be that as it may, assuming Watkins runs for reelection, this would be an exciting and potentially vicious primary race. Dallas Dems may fault Creuzot for at one time holding office as a Republican but they've plenty to fault Watkins for as well and Creuzot can only win by reminding them of it. That'd make it a hot one.

TX Private Prison News and Notes
For those interested in private prison topics, go visit the blog Texas Prison Bidness to read recent posts about a recent lawsuit over records against Corrections Corporation of America as well as happenings in McLennan and Montgomery counties, both of which bet on overbuilt local jails then couldn't find sufficient prisoners to fill them.

Jailer pay competing with Midland oilfields
Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter is asking his commissioners court for a pay raise for his jailers to resolve understaffing at the facility. When the oilfields are running full steam, that county jail job doesn't look nearly as attractive.

School PD fined $82.5K for misreported crime data
UT-Arlington's campus police department was fined $82,500 by the US Department of Education for misreporting crime data, most seriously an episode that should have been classified as "Forcible Fondling," which is not a term I'd heard before, and another where DOE thought a vicious fight between two female roommates was serious enough to qualify as "aggravated assault." Otherwise, relayed Unfair Park from a Chronicle of Higher Education report, "The bulk of the cases involved drug, weapons, and liquor violations that were classified as 'disciplinary actions' and excluded from crime statistics."

The case for officially ignoring 3-D printed guns
Grits tends to agree with the conclusion of this excellent if lengthy blog post related to the handgun made with a 3-D printer (and actually fired) by a UT-Austin law student working through a nonprofit called Defense Distributed. (See a good backgrounder from Forbes.) Andrew Sellars at the Digital Media Law Project would "urge the courts, the legislatures, and the public to ignore Defense Distributed's handgun altogether. It distracts from the actual issues surrounding America's profound problem with gun violence. In our dreams of a 3D-printed arsenal we soon forget that the 'Liberator' cannot be made using something as simple as a MakerBot in someone's basement. This requires a 3D printer costing thousands of dollars and over a hundred dollars in raw material in order to build a gun that will probably only fire once before melting. Meanwhile, This American Life reported a few weeks back that the black market rate for a real handgun in Chicago can be as low as $25. To put it bluntly, we will see far more handgun deaths due to black market firearms this week than we will see from 3D printed guns in our entire lifetime."

Why the FBI thinks it needs no search warrant to read your old email
From the International Business Times. HB 3164 by Stickland, which was attached to another piece of legislation recently approved by the Texas House, aims to close this same loophole for state and local law enforcement in Texas.


dfisher said...

I doubt District Attorney Craig Watkins will seek re-election after the same issue that is currently before the Ector CO Commissioners Court comes to Dallas in the coming weeks.

Monday, May 13, 2013 the Ector CO Commissioners will accept the resignation of their medical examiner on a constitutional issue, the same issue that will undo the Dallas CO ME's Office.

This issue was in-part the reason Watkins' first assistant and head of his public integrity unit resigned in 2011.

The resignation of the Ector CO ME will cause the Adopted Russian Boy, Max Shatto's autopsy report to be declared illegally order and performed.

This issue of county medical examiner will also, most likely be an issue in the Court of Criminal Appeals races next year, as well as the governor's race.

Anonymous said...

UT-Arlington's crime reporting is yetr another example of cooking the books. That's why crime is

Gadfly said...

Hah, I'd love to see that Dallas DA race happen, and you're right; Creuzot doesn't need JWP's mud sticking to him.

Anonymous said...

So which CCA Judges are up in 2014?